A grey sky, light breeze and showers prefaced the final day of Royal Geelong Yacht Club’s 2023 Festival of Sails, but nothing was going to wipe the smiles from competitors faces, particularly those who were still in the running for trophies and divisional top three places.
The Passage Spinnaker Series attracted the largest numbers, while the Passage Rating Series was next best. The event also hosted the Melges 24 Australian Championship and the S80 Series.
In all, there were 297 boats split between 13 series and multiple divisions, while the VIC Sailing League held its two-day final and the Cadet dinghies, synonymous with the Festival of Sails, also raced.
It was no walk in the park, the weather threw challenging conditions at competitors – shifty winds that bent in all directions and light winds from 1 to 10 knots for the most.
Passage Rating Divisions
The grand prix yachts of the fleet raced in these divisions. Gordon Ketelbey’s Zen, from Division 0, was hot from the opening day when the NSW based TP52 took line honours in the 180th Passage Race and ended the IRC overall winner from Tasmanian Andrew Smith’s Cockwomble and Sebastian Bohm’s TP52, Smuggler (NSW).
Damian Thomas’ PPI, a Cape 31 one-design from Melbourne won AMS overall, the predominant scoring system used in Victoria. Cam McKenzie and Nigel Jones’ Ginan and Robert Date’s Scarlet Runner filled out the top three.
Division 1 came down to three boats in IRC; Bruce McCraken’s Ikon, Alan Woodward’s Reverie (she won the Passage Race) and Bill Barry-Cotter’s Maritimo, with Michael Spies at the helm. And that is how it finished.
Under AMS, it was Ikon again. McCraken and Ikon are the reigning Division 2 Australian Yachting Championships victor. Mark Nicholson’s Javelin was second, while Phil Bedlington’s BKT JAMHU claimed third place.
Division 2’s results were clear-cut. Ari Abrahams’ X-Yacht, Xpresso, cleaned up in IRC with five straight wins and AMS, winning four from five races. Paul and Sally Neilson’s Northshore 33, De Ja Blue, won Division 3 under AMS by 11 points.
“We had a great series. We had a ball. We had great racing with Pompette; Ryan’s (Blackstock) always great competition. And the Sydney 32’s. The conditions were fantastic. It was fairly light, which suited our boat, so we were lucky,” Paul Neilson, the Hobsons Bay Yacht Club Commodore said.
Melges 24 Australian Championship
Banta is the 2023 Melges 24 Australian Champion. Chris Links and his solid crew from NSW were a force to be reckoned with. Banta hardly faltered, scoring victory in eight out of nine races. Second was a past champion in Kevin Nixon’s Accru crew, also from NSW. Peter Kendall’s Amigos crew were third and the only ones to take a race from Banta.
Passage Spinnaker Series
These divisions produced the most entries (and therefore the most colour) across the board, making it harder to win.
Division 1: John Chipp’s Dehler 46, Hot Chips, was the eventual winner after a four-day battle, mainly with Steven Fahey’s Cartouche. The latter led into the day, but finished third overall, letting Peter Russell’s Vincintore sneak past them into second.
Division 2: Went to Robert Hare’s Holdfast after a series-long battle. Mark Cunnington’s Panacea rose to second, with Cam Rae’s Barracuda taking third.
Division 3: Don McDonell’s Adams 10 Cruising design, Red Dog, flirted with the top of the leaderboard throughout and won from Graeme Jones’ Razzle Dazzle.
“It’s fantastic to win,” an elated McDonell commented. “We blew a race yesterday and lost the overall lead, so we got onto it today and fixed it,” he said after winning the final race. It’s not easy to win this event or to run it. The Club did a fantastic job running these races.
“We’ve never won before. We’ve come close, but never quite got there. The crew is stoked. Red Dog and the crew will come back every year we can.”
S80 win goes to… Intrusion
Intrusion put her best bow forward yet again. Luke Reinehr and crew won five of the six races on the back of victory at the 2023 Victorian Championship – their 15th S80 title.
“A great week,” Reinehr said. “it’s always a lot of fun at Geelong – it’s good to be back. The crew did a really good job and we had really close racing. I will always come back to the Festival of Sails. We’ve got it sorted on the calendar every year.”
Bas Huibers and the Merak crew were runners-up, as they were at the Victorian Championship. Huibers had this to say: “It is really hard to beat Intrusion. Today we led them, but they caught us in the end and pipped us by a second!
“You can occasionally get ahead of them. We’ve beat them a handful of times over 20 years, but this year was not one of them. Intrusion has consistent crew that have sailed together for many, many years. That’s why they’re so good.
“The Race Committee set great courses for us,” he said. “We’ll definitely be back. We have great camaraderie among the S80 fleet and families enjoy sailing them.”
In other results, Gordon Beath’s Chamberlin 14, Roamance, overcame challenges from Ross Hines’ Lu Lu and Dave Ruffin’s Kavala in Multihull EHC – and that is how it finished.
In the Guyon Wilson Trophy Series sailed in Etchells, Chris Manton’s Tiger could not beaten, winning all but one race. Stalwart of the regatta, Brendan Garner, settled for second and Blake Robertson’s Matilda placed third.
Festival of Sails Chairman, Paul Buchholz, said Royal Geelong Yacht Club was thrilled to see numbers up again, following two years where Covid restricted numbers.
“In this regard, I would like to thank Royal Geelong Yacht Club’s Steve Harper for his vision and his assistant, Fleur Morrow and their teams,” Buchholz said.
“We had fantastic racing. Competitors were happy with the courses, although there was a bit of confusion with the start lines.
“A major part of our event was the 180th Passage Race. There were 259 boats on the start lines all headed to Geelong for the rest of the series. It was pumping at the Club and in Geelong over the entire weekend.
“I think it’s one of the best Festival of Sails we’ve ever run with the set-up of the stages, villages, food outlets and entertainment in general.
“None of this would be possible without the support of the Victorian government, City of Greater Geelong and our loyal sponsors. Without their help, we wouldn’t be able to showcase the waterfront as well as we have,” Buchholz said.
“Underpinning the success of the Festival are the unsung heroes and that is our volunteers: From the race management team, who were exceptional throughout, to the lady who ran around with a trolley watering all the plants and the ladies constantly emptying the rubbish bins. They are all invaluable.
“The first night in Geelong there were over 4500 people here enjoying the hospitality and catching up with old friends.
“Our entertainment extended to Eastern Beach and included three volleyball courts that were active for three days and Fairnie Park, where we had a mixture of entertainment for adults and children.
“Finally, we’d like to thank all competitors for coming to compete. Without their active participation, the Festival of Sails would not be possible. It’s our intention to continue to grow this event and foster relations with kindred clubs and their sailors, along with interstate boats and their guests.”